How To Care For New Sod: New Sod Care Guide [AND MISTAKES TO AVOID]

Much quicker than growing from grass seed, sod will give you that gorgeous green lawn instantly as long it is cared for properly. 

The first step when learning how to care for new sod starts even before installation and is making sure the soil is primed and ready. Caring for new sod after installation entails proper watering fertilization and mowing techniques.

Here are some key tips and suggestions to help you get that healthy, green sod lawn of your dreams!

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Quick Tips on Installing New Sod

Since sod is expensive, I highly recommend commissioning a professional lawn care company for the installation process. Pro tip: Perform a soil test to ensure you have healthy soil.

If you’re going to take on the job yourself, follow these key sod installation tips:

  1. Water the ground in the days leading up to sod installation to keep the soil moist but refrain from overwatering. Muddy grounds can cause difficult work environments that can lead to poor sod jobs. NOTE: If you’ve applied a pre-emergent herbicide before laying sod, wait approximately 6 weeks before laying new sod. Most pre-emergents will have run their course after this period, so it’s safer to lay sod at this time.
  2. Use a rototiller to loosen the top 6 to 8 inches of soil
  3. Spread 2 inches of finished compost, and add 2 – 3 inches of sand to improve drainage if you have clay-type soil.
  4. Perform a soil test to determine the right type of starter fertilizer to use, and then add lime if needed. Are you aware of the importance of soil testing?
  5. Level your lawn by filling in any low spots, knocking down any high spots, and then watering lightly to dampen the soil.
  6. Unroll the first roll of sod and make sure that it’s flat against the soil underneath it with no air pockets. Continue unrolling and laying the other rolls of sod, and again ensure that you don’t walk on it.

Also, check out my articles about the weight of a pallet of sod as well as how many square feet of sod you can cover with a single pallet.

New Sod Care

How Often Do I Need to Water Newly Laid Sod?

Proper watering is an important step in caring for new sod.  Importantly, when watering your new sod for the first time, be generous! The ground is typically dry when you first apply water and needs heavy watering to saturate the soil. 

One of the most common issues with new sod is dryness, so the water should reach at least 3 to 4 inches deep. Once there is enough water to ensure the soil underneath is saturated, you can switch to a more consistent watering schedule to keep the soil and lawn moist

The steps below provide a watering cycle to keep your sod moist and help your new lawn thrive. 

  • Water your new sod twice a day, for at least 10-15 minutes per watering session. Continue these watering cycles every day for a minimum of two months. 
  • The best time to water new sod is in the morning and late afternoon
  • Avoid watering your sod in the evenings as a moist lawn can invite overnight pests, disease, and/or fungus and even lead to dead grass blades.  
  • When creating a schedule, be sure to keep an eye on your local forecasts and rainfall as sometimes nature can do the watering for you.  
  • If you notice any signs of dryness, use a handheld sprayer to spot-water these areas that your sprinkler heads may fail to reach. 

To keep your new lawn happy, you should maintain a watering schedule, adhere to the right watering times, and not get carried away with the task.

Man watering new sod

How to Avoid Overwatering Sod

As mentioned above, caring for new sod requires plenty of water, but too much standing water can damage your new lawn. Overwatering can lead to fungus, rot, and drown the grass blades, causing them to die. This is a really expensive mistake that usually can’t be reversed. 

But the good news is that new sod doesn’t instantly die from overwatering, and your new sod will give you a few strong hints that you may be giving it too much water.

Key signs that you may be overwatering new sod are:

If, however, you have noticed the first signs of overwatering, there’s still hope of recovering the sod and reviving the sod roots.

Here are some steps you can take to care for your new sod and avoid overwatering:

Mowing your New Sod Lawn

Just like grass, you can mow new sod when it looks like it needs mowing, generally within the first few weeks of installation.

Before the first mow, it’s a good idea to check whether the new roots are established by lightly tugging at the sod. If the sod comes out very easily, wait a few more days before mowing. 

I recommend using a light, walk-behind mower for the first mow of your new lawn. This is a good choice for cutting new sod at a cutting height of three inches. Avoid using a riding mower because it’s a heavy machine that can tear up the new sod. 

For best results, do not cut more than 1/3 inches of the grass blades per mowing session, and make sure you cut with sharp mower blades. You can leave the grass clippings on the lawn to return essential nutrients to the soil.

Mowing new sod

Fertilizing New Sod

New sod is generally fertilized at the supplier’s farm before it is harvested and planted in your lawn, so this is one task that you don’t need to worry about until the roots have established themselves. 

Plus, if you’ve added products such as a turf builder or compost a couple of weeks before the establishment period, then you’ve already provided the soil with the essential nutrients required for the healthy growth of root systems. 

I recommend applying fertilizer to your new sod roughly 4 to 6 weeks after installation This timeframe could vary greatly depending on the time of year. 

Choose a balanced fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio such as a triple-15 or 15-5-10. Avoid fertilizer that has crazy amounts of nitrogen such as a fertilizer with an N-P-K of 40-0-0. 

This ratio would give your new lawn a big dose of nitrogen that will only green up your new grass blades and not feed it with the other nutrients it needs. 

Each fertilizer bag is labeled with three numbers known as the N-P-K ratio. I’ve written a detailed article on what exactly is the N-P-K ratio and how it affects your lawn. You should also know which fertilizer is right for your lawn whether organic or synthetic fertilizer.

Scotts Turf Builder Starter Food is a great option to fertilize new sod and grass and is safe for all grass types. It helps grass grow 70% thicker and can be ordered in several different coverages starting from 1,000 square feet to 14,000 square feet. 

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Man fertilizing new sod

How to Prevent Weeds in Sod?

It’s not normal to have weeds growing in your new sod, especially if you’ve purchased sod from a reputable sod farm. If you are experiencing weeds in your new sod lawn, this is generally coming from seeds blown onto your lawn or from the soil beneath your new sod. 

It is hard to stop the wind, but you can take proactive steps to get rid of pre-existing weeds in your soil.  Doing this in the weeks before laying new sod will lay the groundwork for a healthy lawn that can ward off both broadleaf and grassy weeds. 

To prevent weeds in your new sod:

  1. Treat the existing soil with weed killer before installation. You can use chemical weed killers, or you can make an organic weed killer from citrus oil.
  2. Wait 2 weeks for the weed killer to do its job and then water the area with a large amount of water to wash away the weed killer.  
  3. Clear old weeds and grass plants from the area
  4. Till the soil with a motorized tiller.  Tilling can awaken dormant weeds, so water your lawn for two to three weeks and kill any new weeds that pop up. 
  5. Spray your lawn with a pre-emergent herbicide like Roundup. After applying, you will need to wait approximately 6 weeks for the pre-emergent herbicide to run its course.  Once it has done its job, you can begin laying your new sod.

Which Weed Killer for New Sod?

If the weeds are still showing up in your new sod, don’t panic! You can use a pre-emergent weed killer 3 weeks after laying new sod.

There are two types of weed killers:

  • Non-selective
  • Selective weed killers.

Non-selective weed killers should be sprayed on the weeds only and not your grass lawn.  Selective weed killers can generally be used with your new sod grass.  

Be sure to check the product label for directions on how to apply and if the pre-emergent weed killer is suitable for your sod grass types.

A woman pulling weeds in sod

Here’s an informative video on the topic of caring for new sod:

Final Thoughts on Caring for Your New Sod

Laying new sod is a great way to enjoy an instant rich green entire lawn instead of growing a lawn from grass seed.   During the first 3 months, proper care is important to ensure the new sod thrives and survives. 

To recap, set yourself up for success by:

  1. Making sure the soil is primed and ready for laying new sod. This includes treating the area and clearing any existing weeds.
  2. Once your new sod is installed, give it a very thorough watering, and then water your lawn regularly. Your new lawn needs to have enough moisture to thrive, but you also don’t want to drown your new roots. Remember, the grass blades will let you know they are distressed with signs like fungus, rot, or yellowing. Water your new sod with approximately 3 inches of water (proper coverage with a sprinkler head), 1 to 3 times per day, and never in the late evening.  A regular watering schedule will create a strong root zone.  
  3. In the first few weeks after installation, the sod roots should be strong and you can do the first mow of your lawn. Be sure to use a light mower with sharp blades for a good cutting height and don’t cut more than 1/3 of an inch of the grass blade during the mowing session. 
  4. After four to six weeks apply a fertilizer with a balanced N-P-K ratio.

Now that you know how to care for your new sod, you can also get outside and start enjoying your new lawn!

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